Michigan Association of School Administrators

Service | Leadership | Collaboration | Excellence

Member Blogs

Blog Authors

David Britton, Godfrey-Lee
Scot Graden, Saline
Michele Lemire, Escanaba
Vickie Markavitch, Oakland
Steve Matthews, Novi
Mike Paskewicz, Northview
Dr. Jeanice Kerr Swift, Ann Arbor

MASA members: If you have a blog that you would like us to link please contact pmarrah@gomasa.org

Community Conversation – December 8th

Written by Scot Graden on Nov 29, 2016

Saline Area School Community,

With the school year well underway, I would like to schedule the first “Community Conversation” meeting of the 2016-2017 school year. Over the last eight years I have had the opportunity to host several “Community Conversation” events to learn more about what interested community members see as the strengths of Saline Area Schools, and what areas they felt we needed to focus attention on for improvement. Through these conversations and other opportunities, I have learned a great deal about how many of you see our district and it has helped guide me, along with the Board of Education, as we move forward.

In an effort to continue this dialogue, I will be making time available on Thursday, December 8th from 9:15am- 11:00am at Carrigan’s Cafe, 107 S. Ann Arbor Street. Please stop by, say hello and bring any thoughts about the district you feel I should know.

If you can’t make it, feel free to use “Let’s Talk” and let me know your thoughts.

Thank you,
Scot Graden

Exposing the real reasons behind the attacks on our public schools

Written by David Britton on Nov 25, 2016
Reform is not new to education. But never has the type of reform advocated by today's billionaires and their lap-dog politicians been so destructive and divisive. Presidents over the last fifty years have frequently called for improvements to our educational system, but none have quite advocated the steady erosion of our local public schools as Bush (NCLB) and Obama (Race-to-the-Top) have.

And now comes Trump and his new public school executioner, Betsy DeVos. The policies they support, if enacted, will likely make us long for the days of NCLB. Nothing they propose will be good for ALL kids. Equity and inclusion are not a part of their lexicon. Neither have even a thimble-full of experience with the complexities of teaching and learning.

Gene V. Glass (2008) did an excellent job (as he always does) foretelling of the forces at work in the continuing destruction of one of our most important institutions. Unfortunately, I fear that with most writings about the battle for our schools, few citizens (and even fewer educators) take time to read them.
In an earlier time, reformers called for change within the existing structure of public education.Today's reformers, overwhelmingly representing a conservative political philosophy, call for nothing less than radical change.... choice financed by public monies.... [and schools required to] compete for students.No longer is the assumption made by would-be education reformers that our nation must have a universal system of free public education.... The form they propose would better serve the interests of one special group, the majority class [emphasis added]. These same advocates of reform have learned to cloak their proposals and legislation in the mantle of concern for the poor so as to make their efforts appear less self-interested. "Choice" is claimed to be for the benefit of the poor who must escape the failing urban schools. But for a variety of reasons, the poor can seldom take advantage of choice; the suburban middle class can. Freedom and justice, liberty and equality are in constant opposition, and conservatives opt for liberty.The inequalities of American education mirror the inequalities in American life more generally. They are, as Jonathan Kozol described them, savage; and they appear to be getting worse.  Proposals advanced by would-be reformers travel under false colors.... these actions stem largely from economic and material interests colored strongly by class conflict and racial suspicion and animosity.Indeed, the claim that "classism" and racism underlie much of contemporary education reform efforts goes to motives of which the reformers themselves would be offended to be accused. And yet, in our ordinary daily lives, we see and hear the evidence again and again that one group wants nothing to do with the other: not to live by them and not to send their children to the same school. (pp. 7-10)These are harsh accusations but Glass supports them with evidence as to how the current educational debates have been "shaped by powerful economic and demographic forces that have been over a century in the making." These forces are not going to go away anytime soon and more than ever it appears the White affluent class is in the driver's seat.... for now.

I strongly encourage anyone interested in a more critical analysis of the forces at work get hold of a copy of Glass's Fertilizers, Pills, and Magnetic Strips: The Fate of Public Education in America (2008). I guarantee after reading it, you'll have a better position in which to understand the attacks on our neighborhood public schools, and you will see the reformers for what they truly are. It will help move the energy of our education reform debate away from the surface issues and symptoms, focusing instead on the root of the reform disease.

Reflections on Thanksgiving

Written by Steve Matthews on Nov 23, 2016
My world looks like this:
Not this:
Clearly, I have much for which to be thankful.

As Thanksgiving arrives I cannot not be thankful. My world brings me joy. But I also believe that I have a responsibility to be aware of and to be part of the larger world that I live in. I cannot ignore the ugly and challenging parts of the world even though my particular part of the world is stable, happy, beautiful.

How can I be thankful yet know that many in the world suffer?

I believe I have twin responsibilities. I can appreciate my world. The beauty. The friends. The conveniences. The opportunities.

But I must also find ways to help. Volunteer. Give. Learn. Make a difference.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for the complicated and tangled world that I find myself trying to navigate through, hoping that I can find ways to make the world better for those close to me and those whom I do not know.

Homework for the President-Elect: Those jobs are not coming back so stop telling your supporters they will

Written by David Britton on Nov 23, 2016
Dear President-Elect Trump:

I know you rode the critical issue of loss of manufacturing jobs to Mexico, illegal immigration, or trade agreements, but I thought before you take that oath of office you might be interested in learning the real reasons that jobs --- many of them middle class jobs --- are going away, forever.

Perhaps you would like to bring your minions up to speed on the reality of this issue as well, since the technology genie is out of the bottle and no President, Congress or any other person is going to stuff it back in. The heyday of U.S. manufacturing job expansion that along with unions helped build a strong middle class are over. Even your soon-to-be predecessor finally gets it and spoke out about the impending impact of artificial intelligence on future jobs. And don't forget, one of the first major industries that may be impacted soon by technology is the huge trucking industry.

So here are a handful of excellent links. Perhaps one in your growing hoard of aides could read up on the topic, put it in words you can readily understand, and get you on message as to what has really occurred and how it's going to impact employment in this country from here on out. In the meantime, I invite you to please keep your word and get the federal government out of the K-12 education arena where it doesn't belong, and take its (select one or more: NCLB, Race-to-the-Top, and ESSA) test-crazed shackles off local public schools, so we can focus instead on preparing our kids for a future unlike anything this nation and world has ever seen.

Your homework assignment (click on the links). Feel free to Tweet about any of these since I know you are a prolific Tweeter.

The real reason for disappearing jobs isn't trade—it's robots

The Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation

Elon Musk says robots will push us to a universal basic income—here’s how it would work

Digital Dividends (World Bank)

The Myth and Reality of Manufacturing in America

For more extensive reading and study, I personally recommend the following books. I found them all to be fascinating, a bit frightening, but right on the mark given what we are all observing and many are already experiencing.

Rise of the Robots, Martin Ford

The Second Machine Age, Brynjolfsson and McAfee

The Inevitable, Kevin Kelly

The Rise and Fall of American Growth, Robert J. Gordon

And here's one about what K-12 education should focus on instead of narrow curriculum consumption and test-prepping as a result of misguided federal and state education policies. If you're getting tired of reading, you could simply lease the movie at www.mltsfilm.org. I hear the White House has a really cool theater.

Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era, Wagner and Dintersmith

Check out the trailer below!

Thanks for reading and good luck with the new job. We're all anxiously awaiting for you to demonstrate beyond a doubt that it will continue to be wise to elect humans as our leader instead of relegating that job along with millions of others to robots and artificial intelligence. This is your chance!

P.S. No, I did not vote for you but there's always 2020, if you earn it that is.

Take Time to be Grateful & Even More Hopeful

Written by Scot Graden on Nov 22, 2016

Earlier today, I had the chance to share my thoughts on the coming Thanksgiving holiday with the Saline Area Schools staff.  Below is the message I shared…

SAS Staff,

This Thursday marks Thanksgiving and means Americans gather around the dinner table to celebrate and be thankful.  It is simply an American holiday, where people across our nation gather with friends and family for festive food, fun and for some, football.

For many of us, it is a holiday ripe with tradition, starting with watching the parades in the morning, running in a Turkey Trot, or gathering our lists to start shopping on Black Friday, Cyber Monday or Giving Tuesday.

It is also a holiday full of reflection, and constant reminders as to why we are thankful. We are thankful for our family and friends, for our health and for our good fortune.

While I am personally thankful for the opportunity to serve as the Superintendent of the Saline Area Schools, I am truly grateful to represent 5,235 students along with hundreds of teachers, administrators, para-educators and support staff. Working with you every day reminds me about what makes our country great – it is that we are all dedicated to the pursuit of excellence by ensuring our children receive a quality education, reinforced by a great team and strong community around them.

I am also thankful for the parents of our students and to our entire community. Our district serves four extremely diverse communities.  Each community has it own unique style, yet it is the Saline Area Schools that binds our communities together.

While I may be Superintendent of the district, I am also a member of this community. This is where I live, eat, shop and play.  While I don’t expect to get invited to your Thanksgiving table this week, I do expect that as neighbors and friends, we will look after each other.  That we will take time to get to know our neighbors, become more interested in the people around us and find ways to get engaged in the community.

  • Now, more than ever, we need you to be present in your children’s lives. Ask them questions about what they are learning in school, who they are hanging out with, what they are watching or doing on their phones or computers. In this fast-paced world, it is essential for them to know that you are watching them and care about what they are doing.
  • Now, more than ever, our children need role models. I hope you will become mentors and invite students onto your farm, into your factory, store or office.
  • Now, more than ever, we need to stand up and speak out for one another, teach tolerance and acceptance. To learn about one another and respect each other for our own beliefs and traditions.
  • Now, more than ever, we need to be a constant presence in our community. Think about volunteering in our schools, speak before a class, coach a team or give up a weekend or evening to support a local non-profit.
  • Now, more than ever, our children need to feel safe. They need your support as parents, they need your care as a community and they need to know that they have people on their side.

With the last of the leaves changing, Thanksgiving also marks the beginning of the holiday season. For this nation and for our community, the holidays could not have come at a better time.  As we celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you will join me in thinking about what you are thankful for. As we beginning the season of giving, I am hopeful that we as a community will continue to thrive.

The season of giving is upon us and we have a lot to celebrate together.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! & Go Hornets!